NESCAC’S Most Wanted: Men’s Basketball Power Rankings 1/17

Finally the order of teams is starting to have some clarity. Hamilton finally saw their first ranked opponent in Wesleyan and took care of business, cementing themselves as the team to beat at this point without a blemish on their record. Middlebury knocked off Tufts who knocked off Williams, putting into question the 2-5 spots in these rankings. However, this weekend should bring more clarity as Williams’ true talent level without Kyle Scadlock will be tested against Middlebury. The teams in the bottom half have largely only played each other, with Trinity looking like the “best of the rest.”

1. #14 Hamilton (14-0, 3-0)

Last Week: 76-70 W vs. Wesleyan, 102-77 W @ Conn College

This Week: @ Amherst

And now they are legit. After knocking off Wesleyan at home, the Continentals are proven to be the real deal. While this spot at the top of the Power Rankings may be temporary, their spot in the D3 Top 25 is well deserved despite an easy preseason schedule. Wesleyan was the first difficult NESCAC opponent that Hamilton beat (Trinity and Conn are the other two), and with Wesleyan’s opening weekend win against Middlebury, Hamilton is further cemented as a real NESCAC contender. Their game against Amherst should be a high scoring win with a large margin of victory if all else remains the same with Kena Gilmour the centerpiece of Hamilton’s offense. He poured in 20 points in a defensive heavy game against the Cardinals despite only shooting 1-7 from deep.

2. #11 Williams (12-3, 3-1)

Last Week: 69-63 L vs. Tufts, 79-68 W vs. Bates

This Week: vs. Amherst, @ Middlebury

There is no doubt that Williams is weaker without Kyle Scadlock, however, they have managed to show their depth and remain afloat thus far in NESCAC play. They went from NESCAC favorites to just another team in the running for the title, seeing their first loss at the hands of Tufts this past weekend. In Scadlock’s place, Bobby Casey ’19 and James Heskett ’19 continuebear the brunt of the scoring load as Casey scored 11 and Heskett 21 in the loss against the Jumbos. Heskett added 23 against Bates in the following game, settling in as a reliable power forward that Williams will need down the stretch.

3. #16 Middlebury (11-3, 3-1)

Last Week: 82-76 W vs. Bates; 78-63 W vs. Wesleyan

This Week: vs. Williams

Jack Daly ’18 continues to dish and drive to the rim as Middlebury’s balanced offense before was too much to overcome for both Bates and Tufts. While the Bates game ended up only being a six point win—closer than expected—Daly dropped 26 points, nine boards, and eight assists, a stat line we are becoming all too familiar with. Matt Folger is a lengthy player who can shoot from deep, accompanied by Joey Leighton and Hilal Dahleh on the perimeter. Nick Tarantino, Eric McCord on fire in the paint of late, and Adisa Majors all play down low and bring in the boards evenly, while G Jack Farrell ’21 is playing a lot like Jake Brown ’17 from a season ago, distributing and opening things up on the wings and for Daly. Middlebury will need to find some three point shooting from somewhere, however, if they want to continue winning.

Jack Daly ’18 had another game winner last night against Albertus Magnus, and is carrying the panthers despite struggling with his outside shot.

4. Tufts (12-4, 3-1)

Last Week: 69-63 W @ Williams, 78-63 L @ Middlebury

This Week: vs. Bates

Their win against Williams put them in a position to surpass Wesleyan in the rankings, beating what was previously the best team in the conference. Tufts’ size and athleticism are their greatest strengths, led by Vincent Pace ’18, Eric Savage ’18, and KJ Garrett ’19 who was all over the floor against Middlebury. Pace slipped a bit last weekend, shooting 5-21 against Williams and 1-9 against Middlebury. Lucky for him, Garrett emerged as a potential force going forward, scoring 20 and bringing down nine boards against the Panthers in just his fourth game of the season. After increasing his workload to 24 minutes last Saturday, he should play an even bigger role against Bates this coming weekend.

5. #19 Wesleyan (11-3, 2-2)

Last Week: 76-70 L @ Hamilton, 70-66 W @ Amherst

This Week: vs. Conn College

Austin Hutcherson
Austin Hutcherson ’21 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Wesleyan is in danger of falling in the rankings after an 1-1 weekend which dropped them farther down in the national rankings. While they lost to a team ranked above them now, they needed to beat Hamilton to cement themselves as a real championship contender. They should roll over Conn College this weekend, but after narrowly beating the falling Amherst Mammoths, they should be a bit worried going forward. Jordan Bonner ’19 still hasn’t quite found his shot, shooting 3-9 against Amherst, and despite first year Austin Hutcherson’s 19 points and solid shooting, Kevin O’Brien did not play and needs to make it back into the lineup quickly for the Cardinals to have a chance.

6. Amherst (9-5, 1-2)

Last Week: 72-57 W vs. Conn College, 70-66 L vs. Wesleyan

This Week: @ Williams, vs. Hamilton

A sub .500 conference record at this point with their only win against the lowly Camels is not a good start for a formerly great Amherst team. Johnny McCarthy ’18 and Michael Riopel ’18 are still leading the way in scoring, but they need more depth in order to compete against the likes of Middlebury, Williams, and Middlebury as Riopel is the only Mammoth with the ability to shoot the deep ball. While they rank second in the conference in rebounding per game, they are in the bottom half in scoring and need to improve going forward.

7. Trinity (11-4, 2-2)

Last Week: 73-68 W @ Bowdoin, 61-51 L @ Colby

This Week: Non-Conference

The bottom half of these rankings get pretty confusing as Trinity’s overall record helps them out here, however, a loss to Colby certainly dampens their overall legitimacy as any sort of contender. They had some terrible individual performances in the road game last weekend as Jeremy Arthur put up a complete dud, going 0-10 shooting, Eric Gendron 2-8 FG, and Kyle Padmore 0-3 FG. There isn’t a whole lot else to say, they need to make more baskets to win games and 31.3% overall in the contest isn’t going to cut it. They should press the reset button this weekend without a NESCAC game and look to bounce back the following weekend.

8. Bates (8-6, 1-1)

Last Week: 82-76 L @ Middlebury, 79-68 L @ Williams

This Week: @ Tufts

James Mortimer
James Mortimer ’21 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates put up two decent performances against the NESCAC’s best teams, narrowly losing to Midd and competing against the Ephs. James Mortimer ’18 and Jeff Spellman ’20 are a great 1-2 punch, combining for 41 points against the solid Panther defense. Max Hummel added 13 off the bench, and despite not doing well the next game against Williams with just three points in 15 minutes, has shown some promise. Spellman is the leader of this team and a work horse, putting up 24 the next day against the Ephs and playing over 30 minutes in four games straight. He has the ability to win this team enough games to make it to the playoffs, and in March, anything can happen.

9. Bowdoin (10-4, 1-2)

Last Week: 73-68 L vs. Trinity

This Week: vs. Colby

Losing to a reeling Trinity team certainly won’t aid the Polar Bears going forward. Jack Simonds ’19, as always, can put up huge scoring numbers, supported by David Reynolds’ shooting and Hugh O’Neil’s impressive defense in the paint (17 rebounds against the Bantams). The Polar Bears have good overall numbers as a team and were really hurt by poor three point shooting numbers against Tufts (sub 25%) and heavy turnovers against Trinity—15 compared to the Bantams’ six. Look for the weapon heavy Bowdoin team to start climbing the rankings soon.

10. Colby (10-5, 1-2)

Last Week: 61-51 W vs. Trinity

This Week @ Bowdoin

Colby got a huge win against Trinity to put themselves on the board and in the conversation of relevance for the NESCAC playoffs. While it was a low scoring affair, featuring some awful shooting from Trinity, some of that had to be attributed to the Mule defense, right? Double-doubles from both Dean Weiner ’19 and Sam Jefferson ’20 are a great sign going forward, giving the Mules reason to believe that they can compete with some of the stronger teams.

Sam Jefferson ’20 is putting up a very solid season for the gritty Mules.

11. Conn College (6-10, 0-4)

Last Week: 72-57 L @ Amherst, 102-77 L @ Hamilton

This Week: @ Wesleyan

Conn College is beginning to look like a guaranteed win for other NESCAC teams after several blowout games to begin their 2018 conference campaign. In their most recent game, allowing more than 100 points to Hamilton, they clearly had little defense and were nearly out of the game from the beginning. David Labossiere ’19 is doing all he can to prevent the Camels from remaining in the cellar, dropping 18 points and seven boards in that loss, although he is pretty helpless after four losses by over 20 points in NESCAC play.

Who Wants It?: Men’s Basketball Power Rankings 1/10

It’s never easy to rank teams. The CFP committee (despite being paid professionals) couldn’t do it, and now we have two schools celebrating national championships in Division I football. When it comes to NESCAC basketball, it isn’t any easier. We’ve had just one weekend of conference play, and there weren’t too many surprises, but there were some big results like Williams over Wesleyan and Wesleyan over Middlebury. In these rankings I am almost entirely looking at conference games, as these are the best indication of where teams truly stand when compared to each other. Look for these rankings to change a ton in the coming weeks, before we start to get some real shape to the standings come February.

#4 Williams (11-2, 2-0)

Last Week: 76-68 W @ Wesleyan, 91-57 W @ Conn College

This Week: vs. Tufts, Bates

It was a huge weekend for the Ephs as they snuck away with a win in Middletown – avenging one of their two losses on the year – and defeating the Camels in convincing fashion to finish 2-0. It looks like for now, they are finding ways to win without Kyle Scadlock ’19. The win over #14 Wesleyan was a huge win because the Cardinals are looking very dangerous after taking down Middlebury on Saturday. Bobby Casey is one of the most dangerous sharpshooters in the league, scoring 24PPG this weekend on 78% shooting and 75% from behind the arc. Alongside him, James Heskett ’19 is scoring 17.5PPG and putting up 5.5 assists, but at 6’8” we should expect to see Heskett putting up a bit higher rebounding numbers if Williams is going to stay hot.

Tufts (11-3, 2-0)

Last Week: 94-83 W vs. Colby, 87-65 W vs. Bowdoin

This Week: @ Williams, @ Middlebury

Well here we are in NESCAC play and we find ourselves saying that yet again, the Jumbos are among the best. They are scalding hot, winners of 8 in a row including convincing conference wins over Colby and Bowdoin that are what is expected of a top tier team. Vincent Pace is loudly making his case for POY, averaging 19PPG, 12REB/G, and 4.5AST/G in their wins over the Maine schools. It should also be noted that although KJ Garrett returned to play in the games out in California, he did not play in either of their NESCAC openers. If he is able to return soon for league games then Tufts has another very deep lineup

#18 Hamilton (12-0, 1-0)

Last Week: 78-55 W @ Trinity

This Week: vs. Wesleyan, vs. Conn College

Hamilton continues to do everything they can do to prove that they have what it takes to be in the top of the league with a statement win in a 78-55 drubbing of Trinity. Kena Gilmour ’20 still looks like one of the NESCAC’s best, pouring in 23 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in the victory. We’ll wait and see if the high-scoring strategy used by the Continentals continues to prove effective in conference play. The win over Trinity was a start, but Hamilton has a chance to make some noise when the Cardinals and Camels come to town this weekend.

#14 Wesleyan (10-2, 1-1)

Last Week: 76-68 L vs. Williams, 80-70 W vs. Middlebury

This Week: @ Hamilton, @ Amherst

It’s still hard to get a good read on this Wesleyan team. They are definitely good, having already beaten Williams in a non-conference game and now Middlebury in a game where they played very well. A loss to Williams may simply prove to us that Williams is better than we thought, but the Cardinals had a chance to really do some damage, and they couldn’t finish a hard fought game at home. Wesleyan’s strength is their balance. Jordan Bonner ’19, their leading scorer, scored 28 points on a poor 10-33 shooting against Williams. Then in the win over Middlebury, he scored just 7 points on 1-5 shooting, allowing the shots to be attempted more evenly. Wesleyan doesn’t have a true “star,” but their efficient style still puts them in the top of the league.

#16 Middlebury (9-3, 1-1)

Last Week: 82-60 W @ Conn College, 80-70 L @ Wesleyan

This Week: vs. Bates, vs. Tufts

The Panthers are good, but how good are they? Well, they had a chance to make a statement against Wesleyan but couldn’t, and did what they needed to do in taking care of Conn College. Time will tell for the Panthers but for now I’ll give them 5th. Jack Daly consistently shows why he is among the conference’s best, putting up 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 8 assists despite the loss against Wesleyan. They will get another chance to prove themselves in a matchup to watch when they host Tufts this weekend.

Trinity (10-3, 1-1)

Last Week: 69-63 W vs. Amherst, 78-55 L vs. Hamilton

This Week: @ Bowdoin, @ Colby

Trinity is another team that I’m not completely sold on. A win against Amherst looks good, although the Mammoths have been trending in the wrong direction as of late. They then traveled to New York and were destroyed by an impressive Hamilton team. A poor effort like the one against Hamilton is not a good step as Trinity looks to force their way to the top. Eric Gendron had the best game in the win over Amherst, posting 6 assists and 5 rebounds to go along with 15 points. It is still unclear who the “go-to” scorer is in West Hartford, as the Bantams will get a chance to prove that they’re out of the cellar of the league.

Bowdoin (10-3, 1-1)

Last Week: 71-50 W @ Bates, 87-65 L @ Tufts

This Week: vs. Trinity

Things went very well for the Polar Bears last Friday as they kept Bates to a cold shooting night from the floor. Tufts is a good team, but Bowdoin is not making a great case for themselves losing by 22. Bowdoin’s leading scorer, David Reynolds ’20, actually comes off the bench, but puts up 15.4PPG, as well as 5.2REB/G and 2.1AST/G. Zavier Rucker ’21 is looking like one of the most steady point guards in the league in just his first year, and helps maneuver a quiet but dangerous Polar Bear offense. They welcome the Trinity this weekend in a game that will certainly tell us a lot about each team.

Amherst (8-4, 0-1)

Last Week: 69-63 L @ Trinity

This Week: vs. Conn College, vs. Wesleyan

After the game against Trinity there have been whispers about Amherst not being as good this year. And most of those whispers came from me. Trinity is not one of the best teams in the NESCAC, and Amherst wasn’t able to pull out a close win, a game that they have traditionally won over the years. They didn’t play poorly by any means, but the fact that they didn’t play poorly and still lost to a middle-of-the-pack team shows that they are down this year. They could turn things around this weekend by stealing a win against Wesleyan.

Bates (8-6, 1-1)

Last Week: 71-50 L vs. Bowdoin, 83-76 W vs. Colby

This Week: @ Middlebury, @ Williams

This week made it difficult to judge a Bobcat team because they really showed both sides of who they are this year. Against Bowdoin they simply couldn’t score, and they had no offensive threats at all. Against Colby the shots were falling, and Nick Lynch ’19 looked like the type of big man they need in Lewiston when he posted a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. It really looks like Jeff Spellman ’20 and Tom Coyne ’20 are the only scorers in this Bates lineup and if they have off nights, the rest of the lineup can’t provide the firepower they need. They would really impress this weekend if they were able to steal a win from either the Panthers or the Ephs.

Colby (7-5, 0-2)

Last Week: 94-83 L @ Tufts, 83-76 L @ Bates

This Week vs. Trinity

Colby played well at times against Tufts, but lacked the star power to be a team as good as the Jumbos. They were hoping for a bounce-back win against Bates, but were denied at the hands of Nick Lynch and the Bobcats. Dean Weiner ’19 is having an outstanding junior campaign. He is a double-double machine, posting 17 points and 10 rebounds against Tufts, followed by a 19-point, 11-rebound effort against Bates. He isn’t getting a ton of help, so the Mules have struggled. They’ll look to turn it around this weekend against the Bantams.

Conn College (5-8, 0-2)

Last Week: 82-60 L vs. Middlebury, 91-57 L vs. Williams

This Week: @ Amherst, @ Hamilton

Things look bleak in New London. As we’ve mentioned, David Labossiere ’19 is having a breakout junior season and Dan Draffan ’21 is making a case for Rookie of the Year, but they don’t really have much else. They defeated Fisher in a non-conference affair on Tuesday. They’ll face a struggling Amherst squad and then Hamilton, so hopefully that win is just the spark they were looking for.

Chaos at the Top: Men’s Basketball Power Rankings 1/5

The last week has been a fascinating one from a power rankings perspective. The preseason top two teams, Middlebury and Williams, both suffered losses in which multiple pervasive problems were revealed. Amherst has also been struggling, while surprise teams like Bowdoin and Hamilton have continued to play well. The league is very hard to read heading into NESCAC play, and that’s definitely a good thing. Let’s get to the rankings.

1: #14 Wesleyan (9-1)

The Cardinals have two of the best wins in the league, over #11 Williams in a non conference game and over #21 Nichols. Wesleyan’s defense has always been dominant, but in recent years they have lacked the outside shooting (and scoring overall) to compete with the elite NESCAC teams like Middlebury, Williams and Amherst. This season, they have been able to score when they need to. Jordan Bonner ‘19 (16.8 PPG) has had a lot to do with this, but Austin Hutcherson ‘21 has emerged lately as the kind of X-Factor that could carry Wesleyan to the top of a wide-open league. In a three game stretch that featured wins over Vassar, Brandeis and Fitchburg State, Hutcherson had 14, 27 and 14 with 12 three pointers. However, he was held to zero points during Wesleyan’s loss to an inferior Springfield team on Tuesday night. That loss featured many of the scoring woes that have plagued the Cardinals in recent years, so it seems that Hutcherson will be a crucial factor in determining whether their success will continue in NESCAC play. A back-to-back home matchup with Williams and Middlebury this weekend will be the best possible test of Wesleyan’s legitimacy.

Austin Hutcherson ’21 could throw his name right into the ROY race with some strong NESCAC performances.

2: Tufts (9-3)

Don’t look now, but Tufts is figuring it out. They’ve won five games in a row, and are the hottest team entering league play outside of undefeated Hamilton. Cam wrote a good deal about them in the Stock Report, but the return of KJ Garrett ‘18 makes the Jumbos dangerous again as contenders for the league crown. An electric athlete who can score in bunches and defend multiple positions, Garrett is the kind of player who can swing games all by himself on either end of the court. And he did just that in their tournament. Garrett had 30 points in the two games (18 in a Game One win over Pomona) and added 12 rebounds and five steals. With Vinny Pace back in form and Eric Savage making a big leap (15.6 PPG,) Tufts is as deep on the perimeter as anyone. And there aren’t too many big men in the league who can really exploit their lack of size, so Tufts is right back in the top tier.

3: #4 Middlebury (7-2)

The Panther’s ride to a three-peat has hit a classic New England speed bump. The Panthers have lost two of their last three games, the last one a blowout at home, something that has happened maybe once or twice in the last five years. It must be noted, however, that the losses were to #12 York and #13 Swarthmore. Middlebury has played the toughest non-league schedule of anyone, and they just paid for it. However, Middlebury should still be able to win those games, especially at home. The culprit has been scoring, particularly from the perimeter. Middlebury was relying a great deal on relatively unproven quantities like Jack Farrell ‘21, Joey Leighton ‘20 and Hilal Dahleh ‘19 to aid Jack Daly ‘18 and Matt Folger ‘20 in scoring. And honestly, no one has been hitting and outside shots. In this rough three game stretch, Middlebury is just 16-69 (definitely NOT nice) from three. That’s about 23%. As a result of this, teams are throwing all their defenders at Daly, who is trying to do a little too much against that pressure due to his own struggles from three. Middlebury still has a lot of talent, and should benefit from this early exposure to high level competition. But they have to hit more shots this weekend, especially in their marquee Saturday matchup with Wesleyan.

4: #24 Hamilton (10-0)

First of all, congratulations are in order. Hamilton is nationally ranked for the first time since 2004. And yet, they can still claim that they’re underrated. 10-0 and fourth in the power rankings? Tough break for the Continentals, who have been by far the most impressive team in preseason (albeit with a bad schedule.) Hamilton’s offense is firing on every cylinder right now. They average nearly 100 points per game on 50% shooting and 39% from three. They have four players averaging over 13 points per game, and none of them are seniors. However, their defense will need to improve if they are to buck their recent trend of fading in NESCAC play. Hamilton’s big starting lineup (the smallest starter is athletic Kena Gilmour ‘20 at 6’3”) should lead to versatility, but their forwards are undersized and they often get killed in the paint. Hamilton is last in the NESCAC in opponents field goal percentage at 44%. They will not be able to simply outscore NESCAC teams.

Tim Doyle ’19 had 25 points against Moravian, and is one of Hamilton’s many weapons on offense.

5: #11 Williams (9-2)

The Ephs may be finally starting to notice that Kyle Scadlock is not on the court. Their 73-71 loss to 4-5 Hamline is the worst one of the recent rash of top tier NESCAC losses. Williams has a real problem with finding a secondary scoring option alongside the rising star of James Heskett ‘19. Heskett has done a terrific job taking on the go-to-guy mantle, averaging nearly 23 points per game on over 50% shooting in their last three games. But other players who had been scoring well, such as Bobby Casey ‘19, have recently fallen off. Obviously, one game is no reason to panic. But league games are looming, and Williams starts off on Friday with a road game at Wesleyan, the toughest opening game of any team. Teams will be on notice now about Heskett’s emergence, and Wesleyan (and Tufts and Middlebury for that matter) have plenty of athletes on the perimeter to throw at Casey. As always, I think Williams should up the minutes of Matt Karpowicz ‘20. He’s a scoring threat down low and could force defenses to move around more instead of sitting on the three pointer. We’ll see how they handle Wesleyan on Friday.

6: Amherst (7-3)

 Amherst is entering league play on a decidedly downward trajectory. They’ve lost two in a row with opposite problems contributing to each loss. In a 76-65 loss to Southeastern, Amherst shot only 37% from the field, including a 2-13 showing from Johnny McCarthy ‘18. And then in their next game, a 95-92 loss to Eastern Connecticut, Amherst shot 57% from the field and got 25 points from McCarthy and 22 from Michael Riopel ‘18. However, those two players combined for over half of their points, and they still gave up 95 to the other team. Amherst’s offense goes as McCarthy goes, and like McCarthy, they are struggling for consistency. They still lack a third scoring option that can be trusted every night, just as they did last season. Every year people are waiting for Amherst to turn it on. Their success rightfully makes them a perpetual sleeping giant. But it might be the case that they just don’t have enough talent this season.
7: Trinity (9-2)

I feel like no one, especially us, has said a single word about Trinity yet this season. But as quietly as possible, the Bantams are 9-2 and have won five games in a row. They’ve done it, as is their way, with defense. They are second only to Wesleyan in opponent’s field goal percentage and points per game. Additionally, they absolutely handled Springfield (the team that recently handed Wesleyan their first loss) earlier this season 71-54. Like the Cardinals, Trinity’s strength on defense is balanced out by struggles on offense. In the preseason, Trinity has gotten fairly consistent scoring from Jeremy Arthur ‘19 (13.7 PGG) and Eric Gendron ‘18 (10.3 PPG.) However, Gendron only shoots 22% from three, and Trinity as a team only shot 31% from downtown. Their offense will need to be more versatile in NESCAC play.

8: Bowdoin (8-2)

The Polar Bears have rebounded nicely from their two game losing streak,

Zavier Rucker ’21 has been a great find for Bowdoin this season, and become even more valuable as the season goes on.

winning their last two in impressive fashion. This mini-streak including a non-league win over Bates. Bowdoin has been shooting the ball very well lately, hitting over 50% of their shots in both of those wins. Despite having only started one game, David Reynolds ‘20 has taken over for Jack Simonds ‘19 (who is struggling mightily from the field at 39.5%) as the go to scorer. But the key to Bowdoin’s league success may well end up being a first year. PG Zavier Rucker is still shooting 66.7% from the field in 31.1 minutes per game. He has also shown tremendous maturity in running the offense, especially for a first year. His assist to turnover ratio is 2.5, fifth best among players with over 30 assists. And his size (6’2”, 187) and strength have made him an elite defender already. He averages 1.5 steals per game, and will be essential in guarding the variety of excellent guards in the NESCAC. Bowdoin has the talent to reach heights they haven’t seen in years, and Rucker is a huge part of that chance.

9: Colby (7-3)

The best big man you haven’t heard about plays for the Mules, and his name is Dean Weiner. Yes, I know he sounds like the bad guy in a raunchy college comedy, but he is quietly putting up one of the best stat lines in the league. He averages 10.3 PPG, and leads the league in rebounds (9.4) and blocks (2.8.) But what really sets him apart is his passing. He averages four assists per game, with an A/TO ratio of 2.5. That’s better than many guards. In a league somewhat devoid of star big men, Weiner could be a problem for many teams come league play. His versatility could give traditional big men like Williams’ Karpowicz and Middlebury’s Nick Tarantino ‘18 problems, and he’s good enough around the rim (58.3% from the field) to punish smaller players in switches. Colby may not have enough shooting around him to be really dangerous, but they’ve got a star, the first key to NESCAC success.

Dean Weiner ’19 has done it all this season for the surprising Colby Mules.

10: Bates (7-5)

Bates still simply cannot shoot. They are shooting 39% from the field as a team, and 29% from three, both far and away the worst marks in the league. And this is in non-conference play: they still have to face the elite defense of the NESCAC. Jeff Spellman ‘20 carries the most offensive burden of any player in the league, and as a result, defenses are throwing everything they have at him. He’s only shooting 30% from three, and that is simply because he is forced to take many tough shots. Given this trend, it is surprising that Max Hummel ‘19 doesn’t play more. He is far and away Bates’ best shooter (indeed, one of the best in the league) at 45.5% from three, and yet he only plays 17 minutes per game. In league play, Hummel might and should be forced into a sixth man or even starting role, in order to find some shooting and free up Spellman.

11: Connecticut College (5-6)

The Camels have lost four of their last five games, and it’s kind of unclear as to why. Their teams shooting numbers are excellent (second in the league in three point shooting at 37%,) they have a star in David Laboissiere ‘18 (17 PPG on 45% shooting from three) and a strong secondary scorer in Dan Draffan ‘21. For more on Draffan, check out Colby’s (the writer, not the college) Awards Preview. Generally speaking, the culprit behind the Camel’s struggles is defense, but it seems more that they have a lack of toughness. All of their losses have been by at least 9 points, suggesting that when they get down, they are not good at managing runs by opponents. However, their shooting ability means that they could be a problem if they get hot. They have a good chance to turn it around on Friday night when the shaky Middlebury Panthers come to town.

NESCAC Tournament Roundup

Middlebury ran through the NESCAC tournament en route to their second straight NESCAC title (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Williams at Tufts:

The Ephs kept their late season magic going against the Jumbos in a David (Aronowitz ‘17 and Kyle Scadlock ‘19) meets Goliath matchup in Medford, MA. Williams played just like they did against Amherst the weekend before – they put up solid, yet repeatable shooting numbers (46.8% FG, 32.0% 3-point, and 71.4% FT) which allowed them to build a steady lead in the second half. Tufts shot just 37.3% FG in this semifinal with their five starters going 11-34 from the field and 4-18 from deep, significantly worse than their bench. Everett Dayton ‘18, Vinny Pace ‘18, and Drew Madsen ‘17 were stopped from putting up any real rebounding numbers while Scadlock and Aronowitz ran the floor effectively for the Ephs. The Jumbos got away from their game plan as a result of their poor shooting, as just three players were able to score in double-digits. This came in stark contrast to the recently balanced Jumbo offense. Mike Greenman was able to do what the Jumbos couldn’t and controlled the offensive side of the ball for the underdogs with nine assists, a key to Williams’ success. High percentage shots stemmed from their balanced and efficient attack, and five Ephs tallied double-digit points as a result. Williams built their lead in the second half, and a quick three by Greenman with 3:58 to go put the Williams lead out of reach. While this game appeared to be a bit one sided, it was tied at 65 with 4:23 to go. Isn’t that exactly how many points Tufts scored? It is. Williams ended the game on a 16-0 run, capitalizing on free throws and protecting the ball. Tufts, on the other hand, finished the game on an 0-8 shooting run (including free throws). It’s definitely concerning for the Jumbos that they couldn’t muster any sort of last minute comeback in their home gym in a playoff game, but maybe Tom Palleschi ‘17 will be able to change that. Early in the season there is no question that Tufts was the top dawg in the NESCAC, as beating Middlebury didn’t surprise anybody. However, they limp into the NCAA tournament off of a loss without any guarantees from their star senior Palleschi. Palleschi played eight minutes against Williams, the first action he’s seen since January 20th. If he can return to form and play significant minutes his defensive presence will be a huge upgrade for the Jumbos.

 

Trinity at Middlebury:

Matt Folger ’20 pulls down a rebound (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics).

Double-teaming Ed Ogundeko ‘17 was Middlebury’s formula to beating the Bantams. It worked. Ogundeko was forced to shoot without a clear look at the basket and couldn’t do enough with the ball when he had it. His 1-11 shooting left Trinity without any hope, as Eric McCord ‘19, Nick Tarantino ‘18, and Adisa Majors ‘18 played tough basketball to grind out a win. Unlike most Trinity games, Chris Turnbull ‘17 and Eric Gendron ‘18 shot well and carried the Bantam offense, which usually would spell out a big win for this team, but without the addition of Ogundeko’s ~17 PPG average, there was a big piece missing. Majors’ nine boards, McCord’s five, and Tarantino’s eight were enough to give the Panthers a presence down low that was willing to scrap for every possession. McCord plays dangerously at times, often making unnecessary foul (he had four on Saturday), but it was just the right style of play to slow down Ogundeko, who is used to having his way with NESCAC opponents. Matt St. Amour ‘17 did his thing, and even though he only had 18 points (haha, only), he shot the ball efficiently. Jake Brown ‘17 had the chance to shake off the rust from his recent spell on the bench with ankle injury. Brown came back in full force, competing for 31 minutes and getting his feet wet before the championship. Matt Folger ‘20 was huge off the bench for Midd as the first year Panther went 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from deep, totaling 11 points. For Trinity, Turnbull’s 23 points were the most he had scored since November 22nd. While the senior did everything he could to carry the Bantams in the big anomaly of a game for Ogundeko, it would turn out to be his last college performance. While it was a tough last game for Ogundeko, he still led the league in REB/G this year, averaged a double-double, and finished in Trinity’s top ten all-time for rebounding. What a career. For Midd, the fun was only just beginning.

 

Williams at Middlebury:

 

There’s no question that Williams kept their magic going into Sunday’s contest as they took a quick lead on the favored Panthers. In fact, a four point Williams lead and just three points out of Matt St. Amour at the half would’ve shocked anybody. Kyle Scadlock lit up the scoreboard for 15 in the opening frame, shooting 6-7 from the field and 3-3 from the charity stripe, with James Heskett ‘19 going 3-3 FG and 2-2 from deep en route to a perfect eight points. Scadlock added ten first half rebounds, enough to carry the Ephs to a 40-36 early lead that gave them hope that they could put a ring on after the season. Unfortunately for the Ephs, they weren’t able to hold off St. Amour the whole game, as this game was a tale of two halves. In fact, St. Amour went off in the second half and you wouldn’t even be able to tell he started off slowly unless you took a closer look at the box score. St. Amour dropped 17 after the break, going 6-9 in FGs and 4-7 in 3’s. Scadlock still put up a solid nine points in the second, but only had one rebound as Williams got dominated in the paint. Seven Panthers had three or more rebounds in the second half compared to just two for Williams, leading to a 26-13 boards advantage for Midd. Midd took 11 more shots in the second half and Williams shot to the tune of a terrible 20.0%. While the underdogs came out firing, their cinderella story came to an end. Middlebury simply couldn’t be held back for a whole 40 minutes. The 48-22 line in the second half shows what kind of team Middlebury is—which bodes well for the Panthers heading into the NCAA tournament. Those games always seem to come down to the final seconds. Clutch is the name of the game and Williams couldn’t keep it going throughout the contest.

 

With that being said, Williams played well enough to earn them an at large bid, along with three other NESCAC teams: Amherst, Tufts, and Wesleyan. Winning the NESCAC earned Middlebury the conference’s automatic bid. Five teams from one conference are in the NCAA tournament. That is an absurd number of NCAA tournament teams from the NESCAC. Five teams is nearly half of the conference. There are only 64 teams in the tournament so therefore the NESCAC makes up just under 8% of the bracket. Talk about conference depth. It’s time to go dancing.

Hitting the Home Stretch: Weekend Preview 2/3

Every NESCAC game is important. That is the nature of the league; since every team (give or take a couple outliers) can get hot and pull off an upset at any time, there are few opportunities to take a game off. And as we wind down the 2016-2017 regular season, the games become even more crucial. This weekend and next, one loss can be the difference between hosting a playoff or going on the road. For some teams, it can even be the difference between making the playoffs or getting a chance to catch up on their homework. The Friday night games kick off a critical weekend, and there are some very important match-ups to keep an eye on, particularly Tufts’ game against Trinity and Bates game in Amherst.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts @ Trinity, 7:00 PM, Hartford, CT

Overview

Although they’re still the top team in NESCAC record-wise, Tufts has some real work to do if they want to stay there. The loss of starting center and team leader Tom Palleschi ‘17 has the Jumbos reeling on both sides of the ball. Against Bates, they weren’t able to stop Marcus Delpeche ‘17, who destroyed them to the tune of 28 points on 10/16 shooting. They also settled for jumpshots, leading to a low shooting percentage (36.1%.) They then came out flat against Umass-Dartmouth, losing 91-82. Again, interior defense was a problem, as the Jumbos allowed 14 offensive rebounds and couldn’t get stops down the stretch to support their Vincent Pace-led comeback. Although it was not a league game, the Umass-Dartmouth loss in conjunction with the Bates loss point to deep problems for Tufts. They need to find a way to defend at a high level without Palleschi.

Unfortunately, Trinity is not the best team to play if interior defense is your issue. Ed Ogundeko ‘17 has shown himself to be fully capable of ending a game himself if a team doesn’t have a post presence to match him (see his 20/20 game against Bowdoin earlier this year.) Marcus Delpeche proved that Tufts is vulnerable to big performances from dominant inside players. However, Trinity doesn’t exactly come into this one firing on all cylinders either. They only put up 53 points on 32% shooting against Amherst, and that’s including 19 on 8/11 shooting from Ogundeko. The rest of the team shot 11/48 from the field, which is about the same percentage that I shoot when I throw paper at my recycling bin from my bed. Both teams enter this game needing to prove themselves if they hope to contend for top spots come playoffs.

Tufts X-Factor: Guard Rebounding

With Palleschi out, Tufts has a `very large hole in the middle of their defense. To fill that hole, the Jumbos will need help from up and down the roster. Of course new starter Drew Madsen ‘17 has the biggest job (particularly this weekend when he matches up with Ogundeko) but he can’t do it alone. Tufts’ guards have to take some of the rebounding load off of the suddenly-thin Tufts frontcourt. Vincent Pace ‘18 has always been adept at this, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game, but he holds too much offensive responsibility to spend all his time battling Ogundeko in the paint. KJ Garrett ‘18 and Ben Engvall ‘18 will have to use their size and strength to crash the boards, freeing up Pace to carry the offense and taking pressure off Tufts’ untested big men.

Trinity X-Factor: Anyone Besides Ogundeko

Eric Gendron
Eric Gendron ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

I apologize for sounding like a broken record here, but Trinity needs a second scoring option. Amherst was able to basically dare anyone else on the Bantams roster to beat them, and no one else could. Chris Turnbull ‘17 has shot well from three on the year at 43%, but has a tendency to disappear in big games and struggles to score inside. The same goes for Jeremy Arthur ‘19, who has struggled in league play. Eric Gendron ‘18 represents another candidate to be the Christopher to Ogundeko’s Tony Soprano. Gendron has averaged 11.2 points per game on 43% shooting in league play. To knock off Tufts, Trinity will need solid games from at least one (and more likely two or three) of those possible second bananas.

Final Thoughts

From a playoff seeding standpoint, Trinity probably needs this game more. At 4-2, they are currently mired in the swamp of teams behind Tufts. Furthermore, they have one of the toughest remaining schedules of any of those teams. After Tufts they still have Hamilton, Middlebury and Bates, all of whom will be battling hard for the best possible playoff spot. I could see Trinity playing very well in these last four games and setting themselves up for a long playoff run. However, I could also see them falling back in the face of this tough schedule. This game is a terrific chance for them to kick this tough stretch off right.
Tufts hasn’t clinched anything either. Although they’re 6-1 now, Middlebury has been playing better than them lately, and Amherst always seems one strong game away from returning to the top. Both those teams have a chance of winning out, and therefore could take the top spot away from Tufts. The Jumbos need to figure out a way to survive without Palleschi, or their season could end disappointingly early. And unfortunately for Tufts, I don’t think this is the game in which they figure it out.

Writer’s Pick: Trinity

Hamilton @ Bowdoin, 7:00 PM, Brunswick, ME

Although Hamilton is certainly loaded with talent, they are very young. Middlebury showed the rest of the league just how much that matters last weekend. The Panthers threw up a cool 115 points against the Continentals, and pressured them into 19 turnovers. Hamilton is 0-3 on the road in league play, a stat which makes sense considering that the vast majority of their rotation is composed of sophomores (and freshman Kena Gilmour ‘20.) Hamilton has to grow up fast this year if they want to keep any hope of hosting a playoff game.

Bowdoin comes off giving Colby their first win last weekend in a surprisingly thrilling game. Bowdoin fell 87-82, despite 24 points off the bench from Jack Bors ‘19.Jack Simonds ‘19 has fallen from the league lead in scoring. This may be good for Bowdoin’s offense, as it now looks considerably more balanced than it did early on, but they need to be able to rely on Simond to get them a bucket when needed. I don’t see the Polar Bears being able to catch up to Hamilton like Middlebury did.

Writer’s Pick: Hamilton

Middlebury @ Colby, 7:00 PM, Waterville, ME

Image result for jake brown middlebury
Jake Brown is the best point guard in the league and if you disagree you can FIGHT ME.

Middlebury was unrecognizable against Hamilton and Keene if you watched their performance against Williams. Middlebury’s offense has been balanced and deadly, leading the league in points, field goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage during league play. The Panthers have particularly benefited from the play of Jake Brown ‘17. Longtime readers will know that my lifelong conquest has been to get Jake Brown on the First Team, and if it doesn’t happen this year I’ll have to take my battle straight to the Supreme Court. Brown leads the league in assists and averages 11.7 points per game, developing a deadly pull up jump shot which has added a whole new dimension to his game and the Middlebury offense. With Matt St. Amour leading the league in scoring, Brown hitting his jump shots and Jack Daly doing pretty much everything else, the Panthers might well be the best team in the league in the wake of Tufts’ struggles.

Image result for patrick stewart green room
“Green Room” is a movie that Patrick Stewart was in. That’s the joke!

Colby also enters this game with momentum. They picked up an emotional first win of the season against Bowdoin. They owe the win primarily to Patrick Stewart ‘17, who went Green Room on the Polar Bearswith 28 points on 8/14 shooting. Colby will most likely try to follow Williams’ formula for beating the Panthers. They will shoot a lot of threes and stack the paint, daring the Panthers to match them from outside. Unfortunately, they’re not good enough from three or on defense to make that strategy work for them. Middlebury should take this one easily.

Writer’s Pick: Middlebury

Bates @ Amherst, 7:00 PM, Amherst, MA

This is another game which has major playoff implications. Amherst has been inconsistent this season, but the existentially depressing fact remains that they’re 4-2 and are within striking distance of the top spot thanks to Palleschi’s injury. Amherst still has offensive struggles, but they have quietly developed an excellent defense to make up for it. They gave up under 70 points to both Trinity and Williams last weekend, and can still rely on Jayde Dawson ‘18 to bail them out in close games. Amherst is not pretty this year, but if they can keep winning it could work out for them. Also important to note; they are 12-0 at home this season.

Bates is not pretty either, but they are well equipped to give Amherst’s offense fits. The Delpeche brothers are adept at clogging up driving lanes, which should limit the amount of space that Dawson and Johnny McCarthy ‘18 have to score. And on offense, Bates has lately been hitting just enough threes to give the Delpeche brothers some help. Amherst doesn’t exactly have a stable of big men to throw at Malcolm and Marcus, so I see the Bobcats upsetting Amherst at home.

Writer’s Pick: Bates

Wesleyan @ Williams, 7:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

Wesleyan beat Williams earlier in the season, thanks in large part to the contributions of Nathan Krill ’18.

Wesleyan appears to be peaking at exactly the right time. They put up maybe their best offensive performance of the season against Connecticut College, scoring 85 points on 48.3% shooting. The Cardinals have been experimenting with different starting lineups, and brought Joseph Kuo ‘17 off the bench against the Camels. They had tried this with Nathan Krill ‘18 earlier. This gives Kuo the freedom to beat up on second unit big men and gives them the freedom to play a more mobile starting lineup with Jordan Sears ‘18 acting as a small ball, defensive-minded center. With Williams perimeter-oriented big men, watch for this lineup change to continue.

Williams hasn’t played a league game since their shellacking of Middlebury, but dropped a non-league matchup to Amherst last week. In that game, they got 26 from Daniel Aronowitz ‘17, but little else, losing 72-64. The Ephs have yet to replicate the shooting display they presented Middlebury, and the top field goal percentage defense in the country isn’t a great team to get hot against . This should be a low scoring matchup, with Wesleyan slowing down the pace and pounding the ball into Kuo and Nathan Krill ‘18. Wesleyan is simply better at winning low-scoring, ugly games.

Writer’s Pick: Wesleyan

Can The Bantams Follow In Their Football Team’s Footsteps?: Trinity Basketball Season Preview

Jeremy Arthur has had a hot start for the Bantams so far, and they will need him to keep it up in order to challenge for the top spot in the NESCAC this year (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).
Jeremy Arthur has had a hot start for the Bantams so far, and they will need him to keep it up in order to challenge for the top spot in the NESCAC this year (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Editor’s Note: While 99% of the work on these previews is done by the writers, the projected records for all NESCAC Men’s Basketball teams were decided upon by the editors collectively,  not decisions of the writers themselves. So, if you want to be mad at someone about the record projections, be mad at us. Also, now that the season is under way, treat this as our thoughts on what we’ve seen so far, not just a regular preview.

Trinity suffered a heartbreaking loss to Middlebury in the NESCAC finals. After a nearly perfect regular season in conference, only losing to Amherst on January 30th, the Bantams, hampered by injuries, fell in the final 70-58. They were pretty much the best team in the conference all year, completing the 1-2 NESCAC punch with Amherst at the top, but didn’t perform quite as well at the tail end of the season. They were an experienced, well seasoned, and dynamic team. However, four out of the five of Trinity’s starters graduated and moved on to the real world. Their only returner is Ed Ogundeko ’17. For most teams this would leave a bleak outlook for the year and a plan for rebuilding, however, Coach James Cosgrove and the Bantams have other plans. Ogundeko is no ordinary player. He led the league in boards and is plenty to build a team and a season around.

The Bantams still stare down several holes in their lineup left by the class of 2016 at the guard and forward positions. Shay Ajayi, Rick Naylor, Jaquann Starks, and Andrew Hurd combined to average 37.3 PPG and 9.5 assists/game, making up most of the Bantams’ production. However, the four only averaged 13 REB/G combined, which barely bests Ogundeko’s 10.6 REB/G, leaving less of a hole down low. Trinity’s Coach Cosgrove clearly planned out the transition from one era to the next as he brought in six first year players to aid in adding depth and production that will help the returners cope for the holes in the lineup. Joe Bell, Kyle Padmore, and Nick Seretta should be the major contributors from the class of 2020, offering help to returners Jeremy Arthur ’19, Eric Gendron ’18, Langdon Neal ’17, and Chris Turnbull ’17 who are likely starters for the Bantams. These inexperienced players have struggled so far, as Trinity has struggled to a 1-3 start. The Bantams need some production outside of Ogundeko in order to continue to be a top tier NESCAC team.

Projected Record: 7-3

2015-2016 Record: 19-8, 9-1, Lost in NESCAC finals, Lost in first round of NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: James Cosgrove, 7th year, 90-67

Returning Starters:

Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17 (19.5 PPG, 5.2 REB/G, 2.3 A/G, 40.1% 3PT)

Key Losses:

Forward Shay Ajayi ’16 (13.9 PPG, 7.3 REB/G, 48.3% FG)

Guard Rick Naylor ‘16 (5.6 PPG, 1.2 AST/G, 30.1% FG)

Guard Jaquann Starks ‘16 (11.7 PPG, 2.2 REB/G, 2.4 AST/G)

Guard Andrew Hurd ’16 (6.1 PPG, 4.8 AST/G, 2.1 REB/G)

Projected Starting Lineup:

Guard Langdon Neal ‘17

Langdon Neal (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Langdon Neal (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Neal enters his senior season as the clear replacement for Andrew Hurd ’16 as he played in all of the Bantams’ 27 contests and averaged 14.1 minutes/game in 2016. He shot 39% from the field last year en route to a modest 3.7 PPG, 1.6 REB/G, and 1.6 A/G. Neal, a former walk-on player at American University, transferred to Trinity last year and should find his groove after one year in Cosgrove’s system. His D1 talent should translate over well to a starting position after sitting behind Hurd last year and one of four major contributors off of the bench a year ago. The Bantams will look for him to improve from beyond the arc as he shot just 1 of 4 from three-point range in 2016. Hurd had incredible 3-point efficiency as he shot 46.9% from deep and was a threat, whereas Neal’s range was limited. If Neal can become more of a shooting threat, it should open up the court for Ogundeko, who should be the clear target for opposing defenses.

Guard/Forward Eric Gendron ’18

Eric Gendron (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Eric Gendron (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Gendron enters as pretty much a lock to start this year after finishing fourth on the team last year with 8.2 PPG. He led the team in free-throw percentage and 42.2% from 3-point range last season, good for 7th in the NESCAC. He will likely play at the 2 position after Jaquann Starks’ departure (three guards in total graduated last year) leaving Trinity with a bigger lineup than most teams. At 6’4’’ Gendron should be one of the bigger shooting guards in the league, but has the ability and touch from deep range to back it up. The junior averaged 20.2 minutes a game last year and was a clear sixth man on a team that was dominated by upperclassmen. His 92.7% clip from the charity stripe led the team, and his eight double-digit point performances suggest that he could easily become the second leading scorer behind Ogundeko.

Forward Chris Turnbull ’17

Chris Turnbull (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Chris Turnbull (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Senior captain, leader, and four year player Turnbull looks to transition into the starting lineup as he was another major contributor off of the bench a season ago, averaging 16.5 minutes per game. His 3.8 REB/G and 5.7 PPG were solid for the time he got, especially considering Ogundeko’s ability to grab nearly every rebound in a game. The 6’4’’ player should fit well into the small forward position as he is backed up by plenty of bigger players down low. This should give him some opportunity to shoot as he showed flashes of big game capabilities after raining down 14 points twice last season. His veteran and experienced presence should offer the generally young Bantam team some guidance and an example of how to stick out the bench for a few years and earn a captainship and a spot in the starting five. Turnbull isn’t going to make or break the Trinity season, but he should still play as a staple and consistent contributor in the lineup, offering reliability and a solid amount of rebounds, probably coming in right behind Ogundeko on the team’s leaderboard, in a lineup that is filled with questions and intrigue heading into 2017.

Forward Jeremy Arthur ‘19

Jeremy Arthur (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Jeremy Arthur (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Arthur is one of the aforementioned question marks headed into this winter. Arthur transferred to Trinity last year from Westchester Community College and because of his late arrival didn’t make his debut until January 7th against Elms College. Coach Cosgrove played Arthur sparingly, averaging just 10.3 minutes in the games he played, but he performed well towards the end of the year and scored nine points against Middlebury in the NESCAC semifinal game. He is a big 6’4’’/210lb. and should be able to handle himself well down low with the help of Ogundeko. Arthur’s consistency will be a major factor in how much he helps out the Trinity offense, but he should be able to rack up the boards with the big men. Someone needs to replace Ajayi, who grabbed 7.3 boards per contests last season, creating a big gap in the Bantams defense. Arthur might just be that guy.

Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17

Ed Ogundeko (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Ed Ogundeko (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

This guy is a beast. There’s nobody in the league who is even close to as good as him down low. His ability to get rebounds outperformed all other competitors by over 2 REB/G, an incredible difference. I’ve already mentioned him in most of the other blurbs and that’s because the team is going to rely on him to have any chance to compete this year. Sure, there are some solid newcomers and pretty good returners from the bench last year, but Ogundeko is the clear shining star on this squad. Without him, the Bantams just don’t have much of a chance. Lucky for them, he should be able to carry the team as much as one player can – Ogundeko will likely lead Trinity in points and rebounds, getting close to the NESCAC league lead in both too. His double double capabilities will be nightmarish to opposing centers who have to deal with the 6-6 230 pound beast down in the front court. This preseason All-American, captain, and center was the NESCAC defensive player of the year and should increase his rebound totals without a major defensive presence in the lineup with Ajayi gone. His season high of 22 points last year against UMASS-Boston should be eclipsed in nearly every contest and he should also score well over 50% of the time from FG range. Opponents’ game plans will center around how to stop Ogundeko, and for good reason. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t at least 1st team All-‘CAC at the end of the year.

Diamond in the Rough: Guard Nick Seretta ‘20

Nick Seretta (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Nick Seretta (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

I’m not going to lie here, I’ve been pretty lazy about writing this article. It took me a while to find a time to interview Coach Cosgrove and I kind of put the preview on hold for a while with football season wrapping up. On top of that, as many college students could agree, going home for Thanksgiving had me feeling some type of way [Editor’s note: and then I slacked pretty hard on the whole editing part of the process, pushing back the publishing date even further]. On the bright side though, this has allowed me to see what Trinity’s playing time distribution looks like after their first two games, and it’s evident that Seretta should be a major contributor from his contributions early in the young season. The 6’3’’ swingman from Middlesex, CT is averaging a huge 24 minutes per game and scored 11 points against Southern VT in his first collegiate contest. Since then, he is averaging 7.5 PPG and 3.3 rebounds per contest too. The high flying first year can dunk with the best of them too, and he should be a big playmaker and an exciting weapon down the road for the Bantams. Cosgrove highlighted how Seretta should be one of the major first year players to make an immediate impact at the college level, especially considering Trinity’s lack of guards. Youth is in quantity in Hartford, and Seretta is just one of many young guns Cosgrove looks to unveil in 2017.

Everything Else:

Between Neal, Gendron, Arthur, and Turnbull, Trinity looks to have a solid lineup as they will be led by senior sensation Ogundeko. However, the four replacements from last year’s NESCAC regular season winning team might not be up to the task. Yes, they have experience and great coaching, but none of them really standout as big playmakers and guys who can go off during a game the way that Ajayi or Starks could. Arthur in particular has had some big games, but other than Ogundeko, the Bantams have struggled to score during their 1-3 start.

This hole will hopefully lead to big impact seasons from several of the first years, including the aforementioned Seretta as well as Joe Bell ‘20 and Kyle Padmore ‘20. Bell has struggled thus far, only playing in 8.3 minutes per game and going 2-14 shooting, but his time will come as the season progresses. Padmore should have a bigger role at the guard spot evidenced by some early big minutes off of the bench. So far he is averaging 14.3 minutes per game. Padmore has shot efficiently, but only has 5 points so far this season, a number I suspect will rise as the season progresses. He has racked up a total of four boards in the first two contests though and should only increase his production as he finds his role and gets comfortable at the college level.

The 6’4’’ guard saw the opening in the lineup from a season ago and is hungry to take minutes away from the returners, as any competitive player should be, but drastic improvement throughout the course of the season is not out of the question here. He drilled a three pointer against Southern Vermont in a tough overtime loss, and should only drain more as the season goes on. Guards for the Bantams will be flying in and out of the game as they don’t have any clear stars taking the ball up the court, but they might be fine with a dribble-by-committee approach.

There are a lot of things up in the air for Trinity in this young season as they look to repeat as NESCAC regular season champs and overcome upset losses last year to win some rings. They have a long road ahead of them with ample transition into what is a new era in Hartford. Ogundeko is going to do everything he can to end his college career with a bang, and the seasoned Coach Cosgrove shouldn’t roll over easily either. Regardless of how they stack up, Trinity won’t go down easily; they are always a player in the title race, and if the young Bantams  can adjust to the college level and complement the elderly Trinity ballplayers, they will be dangerous.

2016 NbN All-NESCAC Basketball Teams

Lucas Hausman '16 was an easy choice for the NbN NESCAC Player of the Year, and teammate Jack Simonds '19, seen here mesmerized by a Hausman drive, was a nearly as easy pick for Rookie of the Year. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Lucas Hausman ’16 was an easy choice for the NbN NESCAC Player of the Year, and teammate Jack Simonds ’19, seen here mesmerized by a Hausman drive, was a nearly as easy pick for Rookie of the Year. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

So the NESCAC beat us to it by a day (though we actually made decisions on our team Tuesday night), releasing its All-Conference teams yesterday, but let’s be honest, no one really cares about that. The NbN All-NESCAC team is really where you want to be. What do all those silly coaches know anyway? They probably all vote for their starting five and then some dude in Hadley, MA, where the NESCAC headquarters is (by the way, is that like some guy’s really nice garage?), just fudges a few numbers and picks whomever he likes for the All-NESCAC team. Well we think we can do just as good of a job at throwing darts at a board of names. So here it goes.

First Team: 

G Lucas Hausman ’16, Bowdoin (Player of the Year)

The NESCAC decided not to make Hausman the back-to-back Player of the Year, and we find that decision a little puzzling. We understand that Bowdoin didn’t have a great season at 4-6 in conference and a quarterfinal tournament exit, but C’MON MAN! Hausman gets buckets like nobody else in the NESCAC has ever. He scored 25.3 ppg, 2.5 more ppg than anybody else in NESCAC history. If you isolate for NESCAC games, the number rises to 26.0 ppg. All season long Hausman was performing a veritable Kobe Bryant impression, hitting fade-away and step-back jumpers at an unbelievable rate. He made an astounding 8.1 free throws per game during the NESCAC season. The next highest total was 5.1. I understand that Hausman is not a great defender or facilitator, but you can’t deny his greatness as a scorer. The NbN Player of the Year award doesn’t make up for losing out on the NESCAC Player of the Year, but I hope that it helps a little bit. -Adam

G Matt St. Amour ’17, Middlebury

Trying to not be too much of a homer, I started criticizing St. Amour’s one-on-one defense when Adam and I broke down our All-NESCAC teams. Then Adam reminded me that the Vermont native was the only go-to scorer on his team all long, the second-highest scorer in the conference, the leader in steals, great at getting and making free throws, takes charges at the biggest moments, and a darn good rebounding guard. He’s a nice guy, too.

G/F Dan Aronowitz ’16, Williams

Last season we got a glimpse of what Aronowitz can do when Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 was out with an injury. This year, Aronowitz was the best and most consistent player on the Ephs. He scored in double digits for 22 of the Ephs’ 25 games, and he was the best non-big man rebounder in the league pulling in 7.4 rpg, fifth best in the NESCAC. Aronowitz was also efficient, shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three. The year-to-year growth for Aronowitz from a seldom-used freshmen on an insanely talented team to junior leader on both ends of the court has been fun to watch. Next year he could make a strong push for POY honors. –Adam

F Shay Ajayi ’16, Trinity

All of those points that Hausman scored were just too eye-popping for us, but Ajayi made quite the case for POY laurels – after all, you add on what we saw as All-Defensive team caliber defense, and it’s hard to find a more complete player in the league. Ajayi tallied 14.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 42 steals (fourth in the NESCAC), 26 blocks (sixth) and was very efficient at 48.9 percent from the field.

C Tom Palleschi ’17, Tufts

Palleschi doesn’t look like much when he steps on the court – no offense, big guy – but he’s got some moves. Plus, he can stretch the floor all the way to the three-point line offensively. Defensively, there is a question about his ultimate impact, given how bad Tufts was as a unit, but his league-best (by far) 3.6 blocks per game suggest that he altered his fair share of shot attempts.

Second Team:

G BJ Davis ’16, Wesleyan University

Davis was headed for First Team status early on, but he and the Cards sort of petered out in the second half. Still, to elevate his game from just another option in the Cardinals rotating back court to “the guy” is a testament to his abilities. He’s remarkably quick, but could also shoot from anywhere, and hit 39.9 percent of his three pointers while scoring 16.4 ppg.

G Jake Brown ’17, Middlebury College

I’m happy to put another Panthers on the map here, and honestly I didn’t have to push too hard. Brown only scored 9.8 ppg, and All-League teams are usually just a mishmash of the highest scorers, but Brown really deserves this nod for his perimeter defense and control of the offense. Jack Daly ’18 is a good point guard in his own right, but Brown is truly elite at running a transition offense, and Middlebury would not be where they are right now without him. If you’re going by stats, Brown had 5.3 apg and a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, both near the top of the league.

G Vinny Pace ’18, Tufts University

Pace burst on the scene this season by going for 25, 22, 22, 20 and 18 in his first five conference games after a strong early season non-conference showing. And even though Tarik Smith ’17 was the primary point guard, Pace racked up 2.8 apg and initiated the offense nearly as much as Smith.

G Connor Green ’16, Amherst College 

Green was a First-Teamer a season ago, but got pushed by some great players this year to the Second Team. Still a great accomplishment, and one that Green can add to a long list of achievements, including being the third leading scorer all-time at Amherst with 1,679 points, 29 behind Steve Zieja ’03 for the second spot. He’s a match up problem for any team because of his ability to shoot, height and size, and averaged 6.3 rebounds per game.

C Ed Ogundeko ’16, Trinity College

Ed Ogundeko '17 (52) and Shay Ajayi '16 (44) are both NbN All-NESCAC and All-Defensive players. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Ed Ogundeko ’17 (52) and Shay Ajayi ’16 (44) are both NbN All-NESCAC and All-Defensive players. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

If we gave out a Most Improved Award, it would have gone to Ogundeko, hands down. Last season the big guy looked clunky and awkward around the rim, but this year he was downright silky with the ability to step away from 10-15 feet and make a couple of shots. Mainly, though, he just did work around the rim. At 6’6″, 235 lbs, not a lot of guys could move him off the block, and he used that advantage to pace the NESCAC in rebounding. He only played just over 22 minutes per game, but he was fifth in the conference in points per 40 minutes. That’s efficiency.

All-Rookie Team:

F Jack Simonds, Bowdoin (Rookie of the Year)

It’s crazy that Bowdoin has the Player and Rookie of the Year on their team, but you certainly can’t argue that Simonds is worthy. The 6’6″ Maine native came in and from day one showed he could shoot the rock. He finished sixth overall with 16.3 ppg. His size makes him a nightmare to cover, and down the stretch he got into the lane and finished more and more. Simonds had one of the best freshman seasons in recent history, and he missed out on our second team by just a hair. As good as Hausman has been over the past two years, Simonds has a chance to have an even better career. -Adam

G Tyler Rowe, Conn College 

Well, he got into Sports Illustrated, and that’s good enough for me. But in all seriousness, Rowe might have been Conn’s MVP, and that’s on a team with Zuri Pavlin ’17, the guy who had like 1,000 rebounds in two seasons. The weight has been lifted off of Pavlin somewhat because of this talented freshman crew that Rowe headlines. After scoring 12.8 ppg and shooting 41.7 percent from the field (and 85.1 percent from the line) the sky is the limit for this kid.

G Peter Hoffmann, Hamilton College

I think it’s pretty clear that Head Coach Adam Stockwell was committed to the rebuild this season. That’s not to say he did anything less than try to win, because playing his freshmen was probably the best way to do just that. Hoffmann started 18 games, played 27.7 mpg, and pretty much shot the ball any time he touched it. Usually they went in (40.0 percent from the field), but he needs to sharpen up that long range game. Still, Hoffmann looks destined to be a great scorer in this league.

F Kyle Scadlock, Williams College

Watching Scadlock early on, I was sure he would be a shoe-in for NESCAC Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, his production really trailed off with eight single-digit point games in his last 11, but Scadlock is truly an elite talent with a unique skill set. He’s kind of built like Ben Simmons, except with the potential to shoot the ball. More than anything, the way he assumed a pivotal starting role and still maintained productive play tells me that he deserves this.

F Andrew Groll, Hamilton College

Groll was a workhorse, pulling down 7.8 rpg, fourth-most in the NESCAC. He also made the game-winner against Middlebury. Kid’s got ice in his veins!

All-Defensive Team:

F Shay Ajayi, Trinity College (Defensive Player of the Year)

Length, athleticism, effort, it’s all there with this kid. The NESCAC had him as the POY, we’ve got him as the DPOY. Fifty years from now he’ll be telling his grand kids that he was the D-III National Player of the Year.

G Jack Daly ’18, Middlebury College

As if we haven’t praised the Panther backcourt enough, this should really go 50 percent to Daly and 25 percent to Brown and St. Amour, each. Daly gets the nod because one Middlebury teammates called him the toughest kid in the league, and he takes the opponent’s best perimeter player on most possessions. Did you know that St. Amour, Brown and Daly went Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in steals per game this season? Crazy.

G Johnny McCarthy ’18, Amherst College

Speaking of stealing the basketball from unsuspecting victims, no one sneaks into a passing lane quite like McCarthy. Once again, length is the key. He’s 6’5″, but I’m sure his wingspan stretches beyond that.

C Ed Ogundeko, Trinity College

What more can we say? You can’t go inside on him without getting knocked around. He blocked 39 shots and altered countless more, and was the league’s best defensive rebounder by a considerable margin.

C Tom Palleschi, Tufts University

The guy right behind Ogundeko in defensive rebounding is Palleschi, who’s got some girth to him in his own right. I’m scared to think what would have happened to the Jumbos defense without the imposing presence of Palleschi. Luckily, we don’t have to think about that.

Sixth Man of the Year: F Eric Conklin ’17, Amherst College and G Eric Gendron ’18, Trinity College

We just couldn’t decide on one Eric. I wanted Conklin, Adam wanted Gendron, so we split it to make everyone happy (we might be getting a little soft in our waning days running the site). Conklin didn’t play a whole lot, just 16.1 mpg, but they were always important minutes, and his role as David George’s ’17 offensive half was crucial for Amherst. He racked up 20.8 points per 40 minutes, good for 14th in the conference, which is impressive for a guy coming off the bench and trying to get into a rhythm, shot 60.6 percent from the field, and was a sneaky good rebounder with 4.3 per game in limited time. Gendron, meanwhile, matched Conklin with 8.3 ppg but did most of his damage from deep, sniping away at a 43.3 percent clip. He’s also a great free throw shooter, going 36-39 (92.3 percent) this year, which didn’t qualify for the leaderboards.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Brown, Middlebury College

I said it on Monday in the stock report, but this is probably Jeff Brown’s finest work. Without any All-Region or All-American type players, Brown took his team to its third NESCAC championship just one year after missing out on the playoffs. Of course, if Middlebury loses the NESCAC championship to Amherst we have a different story and Brown might not win the award, but that’s why you play the game.

NESCAC Semifinal Preview: #4 Middlebury at #1 Trinity

Shay Ajayi '16 is playing the best basketball of his Trinity career, and the Bantams are looking to win their second NESCAC title. (Courtesy of David B. Newman/Trinity Athletics)
Shay Ajayi ’16 is playing the best basketball of his Trinity career, and the Bantams are looking to win their second NESCAC title. (Courtesy of David B. Newman/Trinity Athletics)

The Trinity Bantams have had a lot of recent success against Middlebury. For what it’s worth the Bants outlasted Middlebury 90-85 a season ago. More relevant, of course, was the 97-86 beatdown that Trinity slapped on the Panthers two weekends ago. I know it was only an 11-point victory, but I do think the word “beatdown” is appropriate. Firstly, 97 points is a ridiculously high number. Secondly, Trinity lead by 18 with just over six minutes to go, and only a barrage of three-pointers from backup guard Bryan Jones ’17 kept it from being embarrassing for Middlebury. So that does not bode well for the Panthers.

Here’s why that doesn’t matter, though. Firstly, Adisa Majors ’18 has been very good all season long, but let’s be honest, just two weeks ago he was still somewhat of a novelty, with only four double digit scoring performances all season. Then he put up 18 against Amherst on 7-8 shooting and 15 at Trinity, and after another 18 in just 19 minutes against Wesleyan in the NESCAC Quarters, Majors has officially become someone you game plan against. Secondly, Matt Daley ’16 is healthy(-ish). Yes, Daley only played five minutes against Wesleyan, but that doesn’t mean he can’t put up a double-double on Saturday. The theme for Panthers Head Coach Jeff Brown all season has been to ride whatever is working on a given day, which is why all 12 active Panthers were in the game in the first half against Wesleyan. Bottom line, it just wasn’t working for Daley, but it very well might be this weekend, and the Majors-Daley combo has a lot of potential. Thirdly, and lastly, while all of the remaining teams have plenty of motivation in their search for a NESCAC crown, Middlebury has a little extra something on the line. Without a sweep this weekend, the Panthers will be playing golf come Monday (as the saying goes – believe me, no one’s playing golf in Middlebury, VT on Monday). The other three teams are locks to be playing NCAA games. Will that make a difference? I don’t know, but there’s no danger of Middlebury looking past this weekend.

Last time they played – Trinity 97 – Middlebury 86, Feb. 13 at Trinity

After seven minutes, Middlebury was up by three, 14-11. That was nice. Then Trinity took the lead. Then it was 10 at halftime. Then it was quickly 15. And Middlebury chipped back a little bit. But then it was 18 after a Langdon Neal ’17 jumper. Trinity shot the lights out, going 34-61 (55.7 percent) from the field, 8-18 (44.4 percent) from deep and 21-27 (77.8 percent) at the line.

“I just think we did well making shots. We were comfortable shooting the ball, we did a good job getting the ball inside to our big guys, and they did a good job taking the ball to the basket.” – Trinity head coach James Cosgrove

Middlebury just couldn’t get stops. Trinity didn’t let Matt St. Amour ’17 get many looks from three (just 0-2), something they have to replicate on Saturday. Jaquann Starks ’16 couldn’t miss (6-10 FG, 4-6 3PT). And Trinity shared the ball exceptionally well with 22 assists, up from their 16.5 average. The Bantams played a complete game, and Middlebury just could not hang.

Middlebury X-factor: F Zach Baines ’19 

Zach Baines '19 electrified the Middlebury crowd last Saturday with high-flying blocks and his pregame dunks. (Courtesy of Michael Borenstein/Middlebury Campus)
Zach Baines ’19 electrified the Middlebury crowd last Saturday with high-flying blocks and pregame dunks. (Courtesy of Michael Borenstein/Middlebury Campus)

You think you’ve arrived, kid? Think again. Shay Ajayi ’16 and Ed Ogundeko ’16 probably form the best frontcourt combo in the NESCAC. “They’re two of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached, and they keep coming every day to get better,” said Trinity coach James Cosgrove. For Middlebury, their frontcourt is constantly in flux. Daley, Connor Huff ’16, Majors, Nick Tarantino ’18, Eric McCord ’19 and Baines have all started there. One thing that I feel fairly confident in, though, is that Baines will get a lot of minutes and they will be at the four. Which means – have you been following along? – he will have to defend Ajayi. In case you forgot, Ajayi is a senior, averaging 14.1 ppg, with NCAA Elite Eight experience. That is a tall order for Baines. He gives up an inch or two to Ajayi, but makes up for that with his length. I believe that he’s the only big man Middlebury has that can guard Ajayi at the perimeter, but he lacks the size (read: weight) to stop Ajayi when he gets around the rim. He will need help from Majors, Huff and Daley, but Baines is going to be a key in slowing down Ajayi and putting a hand in his face.

Trinity X-factor: PG Andrew Hurd ’16

Hurd leads the NESCAC with a 3.5 A/TO ratio, which is sixth in all of Division-III as of Thursday. On the flip side, Middlebury is the best in the NESCAC at forcing turnovers with 15.1 takeaways per game. Last time they played, Hurd has six assists and no turnovers. So that’s it, just do what you do, Drew. These backcourts are so evenly matched – St. Amour, Jake Brown ’17 and Jack Daly ’18 vs. Hurd, Starks and Rick Naylor ’16. You basically have a classic “true” point guard, a high volume shooter and defender/occasional scorer on both sides of the balance sheet. That’s why a pristine game from Hurd could be the difference, elevating Trinity’s backcourt and supporting a frontcourt that already has the advantage.

Three Questions

1. Can you shut down Matt St. Amour twice in one season?

My instincts say “no”, but I’ve been wrong once or twice before. St. Amour gets a lot of his threes in transition, not from traditional set plays. The Panthers, as we know, like to run, and sometimes St. Amour gets lost in transition. Now, if you shoot the ball like Trinity did last time, there aren’t many opportunities to run for the other team. So, in reality, offense, and offensive rebounding, is the best defense for the Bantams in this game. Put the ball in the hoop, stop transition looks, and St. Amour will be relegated to a free throw shooter like he was in the last meeting between these two teams.

2. How does Trinity Coach James Cosgrove exploit the frontcourt advantage?

The Bantams will work the ball through Ogundeko often, but backing him up against Matt Daley (6’8″) or Majors (210 pounds) isn’t likely to be the best strategy. I think the obvious answer is to pull out the four man with Ajayi, which isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. Whenever the Panthers have two true bigs in the game – not Baines, who’s a stretch four – Trinity has to take advantage. Therefore, I don’t think Middlebury will play with two bigs very often, but the combos of Daley-Majors, Majors-Huff and some McCord sprinkled in will definitely occur.

3. Will any of the Middlebury bench players get hot in the first half?

Last meeting, it was Jones in the second half who got hot, but as mentioned, every one gets a shot in the first half on this Panthers team. Maybe it will be Jones (who’s dealing with sickness this week), maybe it will be Hilal Dahleh ’19 and his sweet lefty stroke, maybe Liam Naughton ’17 could drain a couple of quick threes, but someone is going to need to sneak a few buckets while the Bantams aren’t looking. Middlebury has had one consistent scorer all year, and even though we think that Majors can be counted on, that still only leaves two guys who can put the ball in the hoop more than twice a game. That makes defensive assignments pretty easy. Someone else needs to take some pressure off the Middlebury duo of St. Amour and Majors. And don’t let Trinity get up at half. With that defense (38.2 field goal percentage against; second in Division-III), good luck coming back. The only teams to trail Trinity at half and come back to win were the somewhat anomalous Eastern Connecticut (down by six), No. 16 Susquehanna (down by one) and No. 21 Plattsburgh St. (down by two) back in December and early January. So basically unless you’re a ranked team down by one or two points or from Eastern Connecticut you aren’t coming back on this team.

What to Expect

Expect Trinity to go back to Ajayi as much as possible. Jack Daly and Jake Brown should keep Starks in check for the most part, but Ajayi is a match up nightmare.

“I think for us, defensively, the matchup with Ajayi is really a challenging one,” Panthers coach Jeff Brown said. “In the past he played quite a bit of perimeter. The last couple of seasons he played a lot of the three-spot. So he’s one of those inside-outside forwards who’s extremely athletic, and with some of our post players it’s a tough cover.”

Coach Brown wants to switch more on the perimeter, something that Colby did well in the first half of last week’s Quarterfinal when they held Trinity to 19 points, and throw some different looks at the Bantams. I think we see a good deal of 3-2 zone to limit Trinity’s looks from three. I’ve yet to mention Eric Gendron ’18, but his 44.1 three point percentage ranks fifth in the NESCAC. You can’t let him get hot, either. “[Gendron’s one that really kind of concerns me off of the bench,” Coach Brown said. Middlebury needs to force stops to create transition buckets.

On the other end, if the Panthers can’t get going in transition, they’re in for a long afternoon. Trinity is obviously very tough and physical in the half court defensively, and I don’t think Middlebury can play that way for 40 minutes. Majors has the size to do it, but even that is outweighed (literally and figuratively) by the presence of Ogundeko. Look for St. Amour to try to get going early and give Middlebury a lead with a couple of threes. Baseline screens and hand offs for Number 11 will be a common sight.

“He’s dynamite shooting the ball.” – Trinity head coach James Cosgrove on Middlebury guard Matt St. Amour

As far as the NESCAC goes, Middlebury ranks first in offensive turnovers (i.e. fewest turnovers) and Trinity ties for fourth. On the flip side, Middlebury has forced the most turnovers per game (15.1) and Trinity has forced the fourth most turnovers per game. Something has to give. In a game of this intensity, with these stakes, I think the defense wins out. Not that it will be sloppy – these point guards are too good for that – but I envision a lot of fast-paced basketball which tends to result in some silly turnovers. Therefore, ball control is key. Don’t make mistakes with the ball. For Trinity, the key is to beat up on the Middlebury bigs. For Middlebury, the key is similar. Use Trinity’s aggressiveness against them. Middlebury’s not a very good free throw shooting team, but St. Amour (who takes 5.4 free throws per game, third in the NESCAC) is great from the stripe (81.5 percent), and forcing the Trinity forwards into foul trouble will change the game.

Additionally, Trinity has home court working heavily in their favor. They should have some boisterous crowds this weekend, unlike last when most of the students were gone because there was no class on Monday and Tuesday of that week. The Bantams have been tough to topple at home, going 11-1, that one loss coming against Amherst, and Trinity coach James Cosgrove is aware of the benefit of playing at home.

“It’s always nice to be playing at home. I think we feel real comfortable here. We’ve done some nice things here over the last couple of years.” – Trinity head coach James Cosgrove

Furthermore, the first time the Panthers step onto the court in Hartford will be an hour or so before game time. As a team, they chose not to take advantage of an early morning shoot around time slot. Whether that decision will pay off or not remains to be seen. Of course, Middlebury was on the Oostings hardwood two weeks ago, but they might want to forget about that.

In case you missed it over the last two-plus years, I’m a big Middlebury fan, and my co-editor, Adam Lamont, is a big Bowdoin guy. We’re both students, and we’re not afraid to let you know when we have a rooting interest. Despite all that, I can’t pick the Panthers in this game. Forgive me, guys, but you made me look foolish two weeks ago when I gave you the nod to win at least one against Amherst and/or Trinity. I won’t be fooled again. I hope I’m wrong, but Trinity just looks too good. They’re 12 for their last 14. One of those was against Amherst (the other was against 11-14 Merchant Marine – one of those mysteries where you chalk it up to being a full moon, Friday the 13th and everyone on the team taking part in a mirror-smashing party while walking under a step ladder … okay it wasn’t actually Friday the 13th). Point being, I just think Trinity will win. Prove me wrong, boys. I want to keep watching Middlebury basketball for a few more weeks.

Prediction: Trinity 76 – Middlebury 70

NESCAC Quarterfinal Preview: #8 Colby at #1 Trinity

Trinity is ready to protect its house this season, something it failed to do a year ago. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Trinity is ready to protect its house this season, something it failed to do a year ago. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Trinity comes into Saturday’s matchup undefeated in February, winning all four of their conference games by 10 or more points, while Colby is coming off a three-game winning streak. Despite being the top seed, this by no means will be an easy win for Trinity. This is a rematch from last year’s quarterfinal, which proved to be a challenge for Trinity as they scraped by with a 66-63 victory.

Last time they played: Trinity 62 – Colby 60

Colby hosted Trinity on January 22, when they blundered and handed the Bantams their 13th win in a 62-60 final. This came one night after the Mules upset No. 16 Amherst 66-64. This game stayed nick and tuck all the way through, the lead trading nearly 20 times. Trinity’s Shay Ajayi ’16 and Ed Ogundeko ’17 each earned a double-double accounting for 24 points and 21 rebounds. Colby’s Sam Willson ’16 and Patrick Stewart ’16 each had 17 points and five boards. The Mules were outrebounded by a margin of 39-33; this is a result of Colby’s lack of size, which also led to Trinity’s four blocks and Colby’s one. Colby did have some points to build on, as they were efficient with turnovers and personal fouls, turning it over eight times to Trinity’s 12 TO’s and registering 10 fouls as opposed to Trinity’s 15. Off the bench, Eric Gendron ’18 got hot, scoring 16 points on 50 percent shooting. Chris Turnbull ’17 also racked up 25 minutes, five boards and six points coming off the bench, which speaks to the depth of Trinity, whose bench contributed 83 minutes to Colby’s 63 minutes. Colby has some scorers, particularly in Chris Hudnut ’16, Ryan Jann ’16 and Stewart, but Jann was virtually nonexistent in this game, going 0-7 from the field, cracking his goose egg from the free throw line with 1:41 left to go in the game. While giving credit to the Bantam defense, this was a fluke performance from Jann, and he will certainly have a bigger impact on Saturday.

Trinity X-factor: Power Forward Shay Ajayi ’16

Earning a double-double in the past two matchups against Colby, Ajayi led his team to two important victories, the more important of the two coming 364 days ago in the quarterfinal at Trinity. He is one of Trinity’s senior leaders, and knows better than anyone how to perform in this situation. Besides feeling comfortable with the home-court advantage and success against Colby, Ajayi comes into this game with the hot hand shooting 57 percent from the field in February, breaking his season high in points twice; first with 26 points against Tufts, then with 29 points against Hamilton. Expect him to haul in a ton of boards and be effective from the field as the Bantams look to roll through to the semifinal.

Colby X-factor: Center Chris Hudnut ’16

Hudnut played tattered for their meeting in January, so his presence was undermined coming off the bench and accounting for eight points in 13 minutes. At 6’8″, he has the ability to rebound the ball, and is coming off a double-double against Wesleyan where he scored 19 points and had 15 rebounds. Hudnut was not on the playoff roster last year, but he has been an essential piece to the puzzle throughout his career. A healthy Hudnut may have spoiled the Bantams from attaining another #1 seed this season, but that is neither here nor there. With Hudnut in the lineup Saturday, this game becomes a lot closer and screams upset. He will help patch up the Mules hole of rebounding margin, while adding a serious offensive threat as he is 7th in the league in scoring.

Three Questions

  1. Can Ed Ogundeko shut down Chris Hudnut ?

Chris Hudnut can shoot the basketball, and he is crafty and smooth down low with a nice hook. Hudnut, playing hurt, scored eight points in just 13 minutes in their last meeting. Ogundeko will compete with Hudnut, who is bound to make some magic happen. On his home floor, Ogundeko will challenge him with his brute strength and athletic ability. If Hudnut gets a ton of buckets, Ogundeko will make up for it on the boards. It will be a real battle down low on Saturday and expect Ogundeko to rise to the occasion. Ogundeko is at the top of his game right now, while Hudnut is coming off an injury.

  1. Who will show up? Colby’s shooters or Trinity’s defense?

Colby ranks first in the NESCAC in field goal percentage and third in scoring offense, boasting three of the league’s top 17 scorers. Of the starting five, each has gotten hot in the past three games scoring at least 19 points. While this is all important in winning a basketball game, they are taking on Trinity who has the best defense in the league. They rank second in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense and first in rebounding margin. I’ll say it time and time again, DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. The Bantams depth will keep fresher legs in the game, and the defense will be breathing down Colby’s neck the whole game.

  1. How will Trinity match Colby’s offense?

Colby’s offense clearly has a lot of threats, and if they do show up Saturday, Trinity will need to put up some points of their own. Trinity’s defense will surely limit Colby’s scoring, and they will be looking for offensive support from Jaquann Starks ’16 and Eric Gendron. Ajayi and Ogundeko will need to make their contributions as well. With the help of a healthy Chris Hudnut, it will be that much harder for the Bantams to get points in the paint.

What to Expect

Expect a battle. These two teams have met twice in the past year, and both games have been nail biters. Trinity has gotten the upper-hand each time, but the game changes when you add a healthy, beast of a center. Both teams are going to look really good, and Colby will look more like a top tier team than an eighth-seeded team. With Hudnut filling the center position, it will take away from the effectiveness of Ogundeko, who has been a substantial player all season. Hudnut has the potential to bully Ogundeko with his height, but don’t be surprised if Ogundeko pushes right back.

Trinity held Colby to a 36.4 percent field goal percentage, a far cry from Colby’s 46.8 percentage on the season. With Jann being ice cold in that game and Hudnut banged up, it will be a different Mules team that comes into Hartford on Saturday. Trinity was fortunate to beat Colby in NESCAC play this season, so they will need to be in top form to move on to the semifinal. Stewart will do his best to get in Trinity’s way as he is the best three point shooter in the ‘CAC. Trinity will be ready to fire back with the third- and fourth-best three point shooters in the league, by percentage, in point guard Andrew Hurd ’16 and Gendron.

Trinity coach James Cosgrove and Colby coach Damien Strahorn will have an amplified role in this game as it will likely be tight to the finish. Adjustments are going to be huge, especially for the Bantams who will be facing a much different Colby team than they saw in January. Though Colby flaunts a starting lineup of all seniors, they don’t have near the playoff experience that Trinity has.

Colby might get off to an early lead with Trinity making a push going into the half. The second half will be a back and forth battle that the Bantams get the best of.

Prediction: Trinity 78 – Colby 73

 

 

 

 

Appreciating the Bantams: Stock Report 2/9

Trinity's Ed Ogundeko '17 broke Bates' backboard on Saturday. Yes, that is awesome. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Trinity’s Ed Ogundeko ’17 broke Bates’ backboard on Saturday. That is awesome. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

The best team in the NESCAC over the past two seasons has been the Trinity College Bantams. That is really beyond debate too. Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 season, Trinity has gone 16-2 in NESCAC games. The second best record in that time is Amherst with a 12-6 mark. Trinity went further than any other NESCAC team in the NCAA tournament last season, coming within seconds of the Final Four.

These are all things you know, but I feel like the run by the Bantams is still an under-appreciated one; around here, at least, we continue to underestimate this team. We picked them to lose against Tufts on Friday night, and the Bantams have rarely topped our Power Rankings this year.

Trinity is also under-appreciated on a national scale. All of last year Trinity went unranked in the D3Hoops.com Top 25. Only when they made it to Elite Eight did they enter the Final Rankings. Even then, they were ranked just 17th. The Bantams are still not ranked in the Top 25 this season. Amherst, Tufts, and Wesleyan are ranked in the Top 25 this week. Trinity has beaten two of those teams, and is the only team to be above .500 against the other Top 4 NESCAC teams.

I get why the Bantams aren’t ranked: they lose games in the non-conference schedule that they really shouldn’t. This season they have lost five non-conference games, a high number for a supposedly elite team. However, what that analysis misses is that Coach Jim Cosgrove approaches those games as opportunities to get his more inexperienced players valuable playing time.

All that brings me to Friday night when Trinity had their way with Tufts down the stretch. The Jumbos made a second half run to tie the game back up at 58 apiece with exactly 10:00 left on the clock. Over the next four minutes, Cosgrove went unconventional, subbing out four of his starters in favor of bench players. Stalwarts Ed Ogundeko ’17 (playing at less than 100%), Andrew Hurd ’16, and Jaquann Starks ’16 headed to the bench for the likes of Erick Santana ’19 and Langdon Neal ’17.

A lineup with four bench players proceeded to soundly outplay the Jumbos over the next five minutes. With 4:29 left, the game had transformed from a tossup into one essentially over with the score 76-63 in favor of Trinity. The four bench players accounted for 13 of the 18 points scored in this stretch.

I want to pause here and say that Eric Gendron ’18 is a very very good scorer. He has a very good first step to get past his defender, and he has the size to finish at the rim. Not to mention that he can shoot the ball not just on wide open threes but in difficult, off-balance situations. He was the one that really fueled the 18-5 run with nine points all by himself. On a lot of teams Gendron would have a larger role, but he is biding his time while veterans like Ajayi and Ogundeko take center stage.

So to recap, on the road, with home court advantage throughout the NESCAC playoffs still on the table, with the score tied, Cosgrove went with a lineup with just one starter on the court. Rest assured, it was a gamble, one that no other coach in the NESCAC would make. If it didn’t work, I could very easily be writing about how Cosgrove’s refusal to play his core players more minutes is a fatal flaw in this team. But it did work in large part because of how much time Cosgrove has given for those players to develop this season.

Cosgrove is a fiery personality, and he certainly isn’t for everyone. On Saturday, his coaching philosophy was validated in a big way. After Amherst’s loss to Tufts, the Bantams have the inside track on getting the top overall seed.

Stock Up

Forward Shay Ajayi ’16 (Trinity)

It was Tom Palleschi ’17 that won NESCAC Player of the Week Honors this week, but Ajayi impressed me the most this weekend. With Ogundeko unable to start and able to play just 14 minutes because of an injury against Tufts, Ajayi stepped up in a huge way. On one end he was tasked with guarding Palleschi in the post, and on the other he was the main inside presence on offense. Palleschi got his with 25 points, but Ajayi still played alright defense on him and did a great job of keeping the Jumbo off the boards, allowing Palleschi to get just one offensive rebound. Meanwhile, Ajayi was exceptional with 26 points and 16 rebounds. He was the one starter who stayed on the floor during that critical run because of how important he was in that game. As evidenced from him having just eight points the next day against Bates, Ajayi is inconsistent. Still, he was stellar when his team needed him most.

Small Forward Dan Aronowitz ’17 (Williams)

The Ephs found themselves down by eight at halftime to Conn College, and it took a Herculean second half from Aronowitz to bring them to victory. He scored 25 of Williams’ 45 points in the half, including six of the Ephs’ final eight as Williams came back in the final minute to get the much needed victory. The junior plays within the system for Williams, but there is no doubt that the team leader in points and rebounds is the leader of this team. In the same way that Dan Wohl ’15 and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 stepped up last season, Aronowitz has been fantastic this season. The Ephs are probably locked into the sixth seed, and the win against Conn College was a big one.

Stock Down

Hamilton’s Finish

Hamilton played their best game all season on Saturday beating Bowdoin handily 86-71. Ajani Santos ’16 enjoyed his best game of the season by far scoring 25 points. That win got them to 2-6 in the NESCAC. On Sunday, the Continentals led by eight at halftime against Colby, and it looked like Jack Dwyer ’18 had clinched things for Hamilton when he hit a jumper with 15 seconds left to make the score 79-75 for Hamilton. However, Chris Hudnut ’16 hit a three to make a one point game, and right at the buzzer Ryan Jann ’16 was fouled on a three pointer. He made two of the three free throws to send the game to overtime, and the veteran Mules finished things out from there. The loss keeps Hamilton at 2-6, keeping them from getting that critical third win. Now Hamilton has to win on the road at either Trinity or Amherst to have a chance at the playoffs. That won’t be easy.

Bowdoin Rebounding

Bowdoin didn’t show up in the first game this week against Hamilton, and that made their game vs. Middlebury all the more important. The Polar Bears managed to come back from a 13 point deficit, but their inability to pull in rebounds down the stretch killed them. Middlebury scored seven straight points down the stretch after getting offensive rebounds. The crucial play came with 2:45 left in the game and the score 67-67: a mad scramble for the rebound off a missed Zach Baines ’19 layup ended with Jack Daly ’18 getting the ball in the corner and finding a wide open Matt St. Amour ’17 who buried the shot. We have been saying all season that the Polar Bears miss John Swords ’15 on the interior, and there is no doubt that he would have helped against Middlebury as Bowdoin lost the rebounding battle 45-31.

Amherst Bench

For a team with as talented a roster as the Purple and White, Amherst has become over the course of the season heavily reliant on their starting five. The rotation still goes nine players deep, but Jacob Nabatoff ’17 and Reid Berman ’17 (two starters for much of last year) have become near non-threats with the ball, averaging a combined 4.0 PPG in NESCAC games. Eric Conklin ’17 is as steady as it gets as a backup big man giving about eight points per game, and Michael Riopel ’18 does a ton of things well besides score the ball. Still, this isn’t the monstrous rotation that people expected to wear teams out. We have seen Coach Dave Hixon have very short rotations in the past, and he won a National Championship playing basically six players. For whatever reason, a somewhat similar scenario is playing out this year, despite all of the talent on this team. Amherst got soundly beat on Saturday, and it was disappointing to see them have no extra spark in the second half, unlike the Bantams do.